Photography by Mark Davis
My name is Shura Taft and I’m marriage celebrant and MC who has spent over 15 years in front of a microphone. In that time, I have had the great pleasure of officiating almost 50 weddings, being a wedding MC, a best man and having made a speech at my own wedding.
I thought I would help those in need of a little advice when it comes to making those all important speeches on that big old wedding day. No one wants to be remembered for making ‘that speech’. The one that is remembered for all the wrong reasons! So, here are my simple and effective tips for being a great MC, or making a best man or groom’s speech. I’ll try to keep it simple!
This can be a stressful gig! I get asked a lot by people how to be a good wedding MC?! My advice is always the same. You’re best to follow the K.I.S.S principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t overthink what is in essence the role – you are the time-keeper and speech controller.
Your job is to:
- Keep the crowd in line in a light hearted manner
- Ensure guests understand what is going on and at what time
- Stick to the run sheet and make sure the evening runs to time.
My advice is not to venture too far away from those boundaries but to do the job with your own personal touch.
Start by introducing the night and yourself. Give the crowd a little feeling about what the night will hold and hit them with that sweet sweet housekeeping. Toilets? Bang. Couple’s Hashtag? Double bang. You might even throw in a smoker’s reference. But that’s about it. Then I would encourage you to give a little speech about why you are the MC and your relationship to the bride and or groom.
Have a bit of fun, tell an anecdote, this is YOUR time to shine. I would also suggest talking about both the bride and the groom – remember they BOTH chose you. If you have been best friends with the groom for 15 years that is fantastic but be sure to mention your relationship with the bride and why she is special to you too.
Once you’ve personalised yourself with the crowd, it’s time to bring the bridal party into the room. Ask the bride and groom to provide you with some funny details about each member of the party so you can be playful when you introduce them. As the bride and groom enter, up your game, up your energy and give them that huge welcome they deserve.
Your next step is to welcome entrees, step back down and take a deep breath, your first performance is now over. You can relax…. For a bit.
This can depend on how the night is planned but on the whole it will be your job to get the speechmakers ready for their moment. You should have a run sheet that will provide exact timings of events throughout the night. Be ready for things to change and just go with it. The function manager will be your point of contact and will tell you when it’s time to hold on a little or get up and keep things moving.
Go up to the speakers 10 minutes before their time and check they’re good to go. Just ensure they are happy and haven’t been celebrating too hard too early! That being said, it’s hard to stop an intoxicated speech maker from getting up there, so maybe just be armed with a glass of water! In terms of introducing each speaker if you don’t know them personally, it’s a good idea to get the bride and groom to fill you in on their background so you can at least give them an introductory sentence.
E.g.“Next up is a man of many words, someone who’s been waiting for this day for many years. It could almost be as exciting to him as the Tigers breakthrough 2017 Premiership, please welcome up: the father of the bride….”. Or words to that effect.
Photography by Darin Collison
My best tip
LISTEN! Listen to the speeches because invariably they will say something that will give you ammo to make a little joke once they have concluded speaking and this connects you to the audience. The father of the bride might tell a funny story about when the bride was young. Pick something out of it and when you get back up you might be able to make this into a joke . To me this is the best representation of the MC, connecting to the audience. Don’t try too many pre-written gags because often they are the ones that fall the most flat. You don’t need to be funny, just keep the night moving.
Some other tips
Breath. This is key to relaxation, to calm your nerves and help you deliver your best speech. Breath. Relax. Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you need to deliver a world class monologue. Also, hold the microphone close to your mouth. A lot of people forget this basic principle and the people at the back of the room will miss your killer gags.
Run your speech past someone – a little practice run never hurt anyone. Finally, be true to you! You have been chosen to be the MC for a reason. If being funny isn’t your bag then that’s okay! Don’t try to be, just be yourself and the crowd will love you just as the bride and groom do.
Best man speech
This one is a little more open to interpretation and comes down to your relationship with the groom. Some guys have that ‘give each other sh*t’ kind of friendship and some are a little more in that ‘I love you mate’ kind of camp. I don’t mind a balance of the two but I always think it’s better to stay in the good natured ribbing camp vs sounding like a 21st speech.
It’s a very fine line between quality laughs and offending someone. The groom has asked you to make this speech because you are a special person in their lives and as such you will have a little black book of stories to draw from. Stick to stories with punchlines and jokes you know work. Steer clear of smut and definitely and I say DEFINITELY don’t mention exes. My final tip would be to ensure you mention the bride and her impact on your best mate’s life.
If you’re feeling creative, I encourage you to do something out of the box. Incorporate a theme, read your speech like it’s a horse race, deliver it in song or use power points/video. Either way, stick to the above principles when writing it and you can’t go wrong.
On a final note that is relevant, if you are the MC or the best man, I would suggest meeting with the couple ahead of the big day to get an understanding of their expectations. Are there any topics /specific stories they want you to stay away from? How do they see your role on the night? This just ensures everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises!
My biggest tip here would be to write something down. Weddings are emotional, high pressure days and if you go ‘off the cuff’ you might forget people or not articulate things as you had imagined. You only get one shot at it, so be prepared!
Thank the people you need to, but keep it short. If your speech turns into a thank you card, your guests will tune out. Make a few jokes. And whatever you do, DO NOT FORGET TO MENTION YOUR NEW WIFE. It sounds obvious but I have seen grooms speak and literally forget the only person they actually had to talk about. Trust me lads, if you want a harmonious and happy marriage, I’d say a few nice words. Can’t hurt right?
Good luck should you be making any of these speeches and remember, it’s not about you. Unless you’re the groom and then it’s DEFINITELY about you.